Archive for the 'Human Rights Day' Category

McCain & Cardin Urge President Trump To Recommit To Upholding Human Rights

Sen. John McCain and Sen. Ben CardinPress Statement from Sen. John McCain and Sen. Ben Cardin

Washington, D.C. ­– U.S. Senators John McCain (R-AZ), Chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, and Ben Cardin (D-MD), Ranking Member of the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations, sent a letter to President Trump today as the world marks the 69th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights on Human Rights Day this Sunday, December 10th. In their letter, the senators expressed concern about the Trump administration’s failure to strongly assert the United States’ commitment to human rights at home and abroad, and urged the President to recommit the nation to these fundamental values as we mark this important occasion.

“Since its ratification nearly 70 years ago, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights has been a beacon of hope for the world’s most oppressed peoples. The declaration serves as the basis of our country’s human rights policy and the United States has continued to rely on its legal significance and international standing to advance human rights across the globe. However, for much of the past year, our national voice on international human rights issues has been largely silent,” the senators wrote.

They continued: “This was strikingly apparent during your recent trip to Asia, where our delegation failed to raise major human rights concerns or name dissidents who languish in dark prisons across the region for no other reason than their brave defense of democracy and human rights. The Administration’s silence combined with confusing statements from Secretary Tillerson, who has suggested that our country’s fundamental values can be separated from the foreign policies we pursue, sows confusion both at home and abroad. At this time of increasing uncertainty and growing security challenges, it is imperative that we reassert the United States’ commitment to our human rights obligations, and ask other countries to join us in reaffirming the centrality of human rights as the cornerstone of peace and security.”

 

The letter is below and here.

December 8, 2017

President Donald J. Trump
President of the United States
The White House
1600 Pennsylvania Ave. NW
Washington, DC 20500

Mr. President:

The world will mark the 69th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights on Human Rights Day this December 10. On this momentous occasion, we write to ask that you recommit our country to upholding human rights as one of our founding principles, and respectfully call on other countries to do the same.

Since its ratification nearly 70 years ago, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights has been a beacon of hope for the world’s most oppressed peoples. The declaration serves as the basis of our country’s human rights policy and the United States has continued to rely on its legal significance and international standing to advance human rights across the globe. However, for much of the past year, our national voice on international human rights issues has been largely silent.

This was strikingly apparent during your recent trip to Asia, where our delegation failed to raise major human rights concerns or name dissidents who languish in dark prisons across the region for no other reason than their brave defense of democracy and human rights. The Administration’s silence combined with confusing statements from Secretary Tillerson, who has suggested that our country’s fundamental values can be separated from the foreign policies we pursue, sows confusion both at home and abroad. At this time of increasing uncertainty and growing security challenges, it is imperative that we reassert the United States’ commitment to our human rights obligations, and ask other countries to join us in reaffirming the centrality of human rights as the cornerstone of peace and security.

Sadly, disregard for fundamental freedoms and human dignity has too often become the norm. Iran, Turkey, Russia, Egypt, and Venezuela currently hold scores of political prisoners, torturing them and trampling on their fundamental freedoms. Sri Lanka, Burma, and China continue to repress their religious and ethnic minorities. Security forces in Rwanda and the Democratic Republic of Congo have unlawfully detained and tortured civilians. The Philippines has reported an unprecedented number of extrajudicial killings by police. LGBT individuals are deprived of their basic human rights in dozens of countries. Worse still, at this time of growing human rights abuses, human rights organizations are being shut down at an alarming rate by countless repressive governments around the world.

These are only a few of the many instances in which America’s voice cannot remain silent. Protecting human rights at home and abroad is important not only to our national character, but also to our security interests as countries that respect their citizens are less likely to breed terrorism and are better able to focus on political and developmental problems that otherwise undermine stability. Governments who respect human rights also serve as more capable and reliable partners when facing common security threats, and they help provide business climates in which bilateral trade and investment interests grow.

As President, we need your voice in strongly asserting our country’s respect for human rights at home and abroad. We ask that you use the upcoming anniversary of the Universal Declaration to reaffirm that no government can be legitimate if it abuses the people it is meant to serve – and that this rule is universal, without exception.

Sincerely,

John McCain

Benjamin L. Cardin

###

To consolidate an Obama legacy, entrench support for global LGBT rights

White HouseRepost from The Hill by Raymond Smith

With attention increasingly turning to the legacy of the Obama administration, one area of civil rights seems sure to be viewed as a breakthrough success: the recognition and advancement of equal rights for lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) people. And while this legacy is already on solid footing on the domestic front, many opportunities still exist to entrench support for LGBT rights globally.

In 2008, Obama ran as a “fierce ally” of the LGBT community, yet many were unimpressed by the early months of his administration. In 2009, the LGBT magazine The Advocate ran a parody of his iconic “Hope” poster with the caption “Nope?” Shortly before the 2012 election, however, the same magazine ran a cover with his face superimposed on the grand seated statue in the Lincoln Memorial.

What changed so drastically over time? The evolution of the administration began with a host of incremental steps, such as ensuring hospital visitation rights to same-sex partners and lifting the ban on entry to the U.S. to people with HIV. Over time, Obama led the successful repeal of the ban on “gays in the military” and ensured the enactment of an LGBT-inclusive hate crimes bill. Using the bully pulpit, he filmed a segment for the “It Gets Better” campaign in support of LGBT teens, and in his second inaugural address, he cited the landmark Stonewall Riots of 1969 alongside Seneca Falls and Selma as turning points in civil rights history.

Perhaps most of all, Obama personally endorsed same-sex marriage and his administration refused to defend the unconstitutional Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA). Since the Supreme Court overturned DOMA in 2013, the administration has been diligent and proactive in extending the full range of marriage equality rights with regard to immigration, access to federal programs, taxation and more. At the same time, Title VII of the Civil Rights Act this year has begun to be interpreted, for the first time, to confer federal anti-discrimination protections on transgender people.

Much less noticed has been an equally impressive parallel track taken with regard to promotion of LGBT rights around the world. Three years ago this week, in December 2011, then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton gave a speech emphasizing that “gay rights are human rights, and human rights are gay rights.” The phrasing echoed her famous speech as first lady on women’s rights, given in Beijing 15 years prior, which signaled the inclusion of gender equality as a central focus of U.S. foreign policy.

Concurrently, Obama issued a “Presidential Memorandum on International Initiatives to Advance the Human Rights of LGBT Persons.” Unlike on the more scattered and improvised domestic-policy side, this one landmark document has served as a coherent strategic blueprint for action by the federal government.

The memorandum contains several major elements, including combating anti-LGBT criminalization abroad, protecting LGBT refugees and asylum seekers, responding to anti-LGBT human rights abuses internationally, providing targeted foreign assistance and engaging international organizations to secure LGBT rights. In all of these areas, the State Department has outlined a range of accomplishments.

For example, a Global Equality Fund has been established to bridge government, companies and nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) to provide emergency and long-term assistance. The fund promotes LGBT rights through a small grants program, an emergency protection rapid response mechanism, and long-term capacity-building efforts for human rights organizations overseas. Protections for asylum seekers has also been expanded; in one notable case, a Ugandan LGBT rights activist was recently provided asylum rather than being forced to return to a potentially fatal environment in his home country.

Likewise, embassies around the world have begun proactively engaging with governments and human rights organizations. And at the United Nations, the U.S. is a charter member of the LGBT Core Group, which in September issued a ministerial declaration on “Ending Violence and Discrimination against Individuals Based on Their Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity.”

Despite these crucial steps, much more work remains to be done. “The U.S. blueprint for action can be a powerful force, but only if its approach is consistent and guided by the understanding that all rights are indivisible and universal,” said Jessica Stern, executive director of the New York-based International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission.

“Achieving change will demand focused attention. One crucial step forward would be the immediate creation of a Special Envoy for LGBT Rights at the State Department,” Stern noted. Such an envoy would act as a high-level advocate for LGBT concerns, working within the State Department, bilaterally with other countries and through multilateral organizations. The position of special envoy is the focus of bill introduced last summer by Sen. Edward Markey (D-Mass.).

Likewise, the Council for Global Equality, a Washington-based NGO with the goal of advancing an American foreign policy inclusive of sexual orientation and gender identity, “has identified a series of actionable next steps that could advance the Administration’s commitment by moving the government from a reactive posture to a longer-term human rights protection agenda,” according to the council Chair Mark Bromley. These objectives, added Bromley, “are designed to harmonize the Administration’s commitments into a coherent human rights policy — and an enduring legacy of President Obama.”

In addition to creation of the special envoy position, other priority areas include:

  • Requiring automatic policy reviews whenever foreign countries enact new anti-LGBT policies. The review could be triggered by legislation, changes in enforcement patterns or failure to protect LGBT populations. Such a thorough review was conducted after the passage of a particularly repressive anti-gay law in Uganda last year, but it’s unclear that comparable reviews have been undertaken in the case of similar laws enacted in Nigeria and, most recently, Gambia.
  • Mandating that government contractors and grantees globally have LGBT non-discrimination policies as pre-conditions for contracts or assistance. Such a move would parallel an executive order issued last summer banning anti-LGBT discrimination policies among government contracts within the U.S. for domestic contactors.
  • Strengthening policies to protect LGBT rights in multilateral organizations such as the U.N., the World Health Organization, the World Bank, the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe and the Organization of American States. The U.S. should also advocate for adequate funding and staffing for such policies to be enforced and monitored.
  • Establishing annual reports and other mechanisms to make information more widely available about federal effort in the realm of global LGBT rights, and also holding more extensive consultations with a range of stakeholders about how best to implement the memorandum.

Whatever further steps the Obama administration takes, some critics will inevitably dismiss the relevance of LGBT rights, or consider LGBT rights a marginal issue when it comes to the forging of a presidential legacy that will stand the test of time.

But such voices have been proven wrong before. They’re the same ones that in the 1960s saw no need for the Civil Rights Act, in the 1970s resisted signing the Helsinki human rights accords, in the 1980s rejected sanctions against apartheid South Africa, in the 1990s mocked steps to advance a global women’s rights agenda and in the 2000s endorsed human rights abuses in the name of fighting terrorism.

Yet, today, each of these incidents is recalled as a badge of honor — or a mark of shame — for the president who presided over them. So, too, will today’s struggle for LGBT rights, both at home and abroad, be recalled as a substantive and productive element of the Obama legacy.

 

Smith is a senior fellow at the Progressive Policy Institute; an adjunct assistant professor of political science at Columbia University and New York University; and author of Importing Democracy: Ideas from Around the World to Reform and Revitalize American Politics and Government.

 

U.S. Mission to the United Nations: Remarks at a Roundtable Strategy Session on International LGBT Rights

Samantha PowerAs delivered by Ambassador Samantha Power, U.S. Permanent Representative to the United Nations

I’d like to welcome you to the U.S. Mission to the United Nations, and I’d like to begin if I could with just a few remarks before handing the floor to Masha Gessen and Juliet Mphande from Zambia, and they’re going to offer their own opening reflections and then we’re going to have a great discussion together.

As you know, today is International Human Rights Day, and it’s hard to imagine an assemblage of activists who have done more to promote human rights than you all. The leaders in this room have come from places as near as snowy New York and as far as Moscow, Malaysia and Malawi; you’re a wonderfully diverse and, more importantly, an incredibly skilled and rigorous group from whom I am very eager to learn, so I will be very brief in the comments I make here.

Several years ago, when I began working on UN-related issues at the White House, the very organization that has brought many of you here today, the International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission, was being denied consultative status here at the UN. Representatives of the Commission, I don’t have to tell you, sought year after year after year to gain the right to participate fully in the international system, but they were rejected because of what they stood for and whom they sought to protect and represent. We decided that we were not going to sit around and let that continue. And so we fought – and because we could accept nothing less, we eventually won. And when we did, President Obama himself said, quote “with the more full inclusion of the International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission, the United Nations is closer to the ideals on which it was founded, and to the values of inclusion and equality to which the United States is deeply committed.” Continue reading ‘U.S. Mission to the United Nations: Remarks at a Roundtable Strategy Session on International LGBT Rights’

The History of LGBT Rights at the United Nations

For Human Rights Day, the OHCHR Free & Equal campaign released a new video that traces the evolution of the LGBT rights debate at the UN. It’s a short (2m50s) infographic video set to a sooundtrack provided by Macklemore and Ryan Lewis, who were last week named as UN Equality Champions for their advocacy of LGBT equality.

If you are having trouble viewing the video you can click here to watch it on Youtube.

Center for American Progress Releases White Paper on Gender Identity and Official Documents

SOURCE: Flickr/bryansblog

SOURCE: Flickr/bryansblog

ID Accurately Reflecting One’s Gender Identity Is a Human Right

This past week our nation joined others around the globe in celebrating International Human Rights Day, which marked the 64th anniversary of the U.N. Declaration of Human Rights, signed on December 10, 1948. This document declares that “inherent dignity” and “equal and inalienable rights” are the foundation for a just, peaceful, and free world. Decades later these principles continue to guide human rights policies established around the world, acting as a foundation for the evolving global understanding of what it means to acknowledge the equality of all people.

Transgender people, however, continue struggling to attain this innate right to dignified treatment and equality. As the Council of Europe’s Commissioner for Human Rights has stated, “It is clear that many transgender persons do not fully enjoy their fundamental rights both at the level of legal guarantees and that of everyday life.” One way in which transgender people have struggled is in accessing identity documents that provide legal recognition of their gender identities. The failure of governments to acknowledge the gender identities of all people represents a rejection of the fundamental rights of self-determination, dignity, and freedom.

Moving forward as a global community, it is essential that all people—transgender or not—be given access to official documents that accurately reflect each individual’s gender identity and that respect the rights belonging to each of us as humans. Continue Reading and download the paper here.

US Leadership to Advance Equality for LGBT People Abroad

US Leadership to Advance Equality for LGBT People AbroadFrom Whitehouse.gov written by Samantha Power Special Assistant to the President and Senior Director for Multilateral Affairs and Human Rights at the National Security Council.

During Human Rights Week, we reaffirm our commitment to upholding human rights and human dignity at home and abroad, and we recognize the need to build a world in which everyone can pursue their dreams free from violence and discrimination.

Last week at the Human Rights First summit, I described how advancing the human rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people around the world is central to, not separate from, our comprehensive human rights agenda. With LGBT people facing death, violence, persecution, and discrimination around the world, the stakes could not be higher. Seventy-eight countries have laws that criminalize consensual same-sex acts between adults, resulting in unchecked human rights abuses and exploitation by police, security officials and private citizens. In at least 5 countries, the death penalty can be applied for being gay. Even where being LGBT is not a crime, violence by state and non-state actors alike often goes unpunished and LGBT communities live in fear and isolation.

As President Obama has said, “no one should be harmed because of who they are or who they love”. To ensure a comprehensive U.S. response to these threats, one year ago, President Obama issued the first ever Presidential Memorandum to advance the human rights of LGBT persons, requiring all U.S. agencies engaged abroad to “ensure that U.S. diplomacy and foreign assistance promote and protect the human rights of LGBT persons,” and to report annually on their progress. Continue Reading

Human Rights Day Message from Navi Pillay, United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights

Click for Related Information on Human Rights Day:

Visit the My Voice Counts page of the United Nations

Statement by Ambassador Susan E. Rice, U.S. Permanent Representative to the United Nations, on International Human Rights Day

Celebrating Human Rights Day- U.S. Department of State

Press Statement from Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton


Stay Informed

Subscribe to this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

Join 228 other followers

Follow us on Twitter

Categories